It's the first sign of spring in Indianapolis.
With the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday – on Friday, it was time to raise the flags at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"The start of the IndyCar season is a really important moment in the countdown to the Indy 500," said Alex Damron, Director of Communications at IMS. "Raising the flags to celebrate the start of the IndyCar season is something people across the globe pay attention to."
And this year, they invited Colts Head Coach Frank Reich to do the honors.
Coach Reich raised the checkered flag at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to celebrate the start of the Verizon IndyCar Series Season.
It was a true team effort as Reich got harnessed in, strapped on, and lifted up to secure the checkered flag atop Gate 1 and ceremoniously raise it.
He said it felt a little like his days playing quarterback.
"I had four guys standing there creating a little pocket around you. I said, 'You've got to take care of me now. This is scary back here.' They did a great job," he laughed.
No stranger to Indianapolis or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Reich has fond memories of taking his family to the Indy 500 when he was with the Colts in 2008.
"I have three daughters, two of them were in high school at the time and I told them, 'You live in Indy, we're going to this race.' They weren't sure what to think, they had never experienced anything like this. But I got them out here. All three of our daughters had the time of their lives, got great pictures from it, they wanted to come back every year we were here."
And he was no exception.
"I just remember the excitement at the start of the race and then as the cars came around, the power and the speed was just something you've never experienced before. How loud it was, how fast they were – a couple hours of that was just a thrill and you just never got tired of it."
It's that kind of energy Reich hopes to bring back to Lucas Oil Stadium this fall. And he plans to do it the same way the Indianapolis Motor Speedway did – using speed.
"Everyone talks about speed, but even working with Chris Ballard and talking about the kind of players we're bringing in, really in all phases – it's all about speed. And not just the players – we're going to play fast and we're going to play aggressive. We want to be the most aggressive team in the NFL in every way."
Afterwards, Reich was presented with an honorary bottle of milk.
"This is something we started for the 100th running of the Indy 500," said Damron. "We delivered 100 bottles in 2016, 101 in 2017, and now we're going to deliver 102 in 2018. But certainly a highlight for us today was to include Coach Reich in our countdown milk bottle deliveries."
It was the perfect homecoming for a returning Hoosier.
"It's just a unique thing," Reich said. "I've been here for a couple years, I started my coaching career here – so it really makes the transition happen that much faster. I just feel so welcomed and excited and ready to go and the support has been incredible."
His friends at IMS look forward to welcoming him back in May.
"He totally understands not only the sport of IndyCar, but really how important the Indy 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is to the city," Damron said. "So, that's really exciting for us to know that we have an ambassador and a friend as the new head coach of the Colts. That means a lot to all of us here."
And Reich looks forward to returning and taking his family with him.
"I'm sure now that we're here again, it'll be an annual event for the Reich family."
Home sweet home in the Racing Capital of the World, Frank Reich can't wait to start his engine and put the pedal to the metal on the 2018 season.